The Africans are coming – that’s the theme for the year 2019. The floodgates have been opened and Africans are telling their stories—stories of themselves by their selves.
From Sudan through Zambia to Nigeria, Africans telling diverse stories: of far futures and colonial pasts, of warring gods and talking birds, of mental health and migration.
It’s necessary that these books don’t fly under our radar. It’d be sad if we didn’t get to enjoy these stories, let them open our minds and worlds, show us what has happened, what is happening, and what can happen on the African continent.
We tried, hard, to whittle these book down to just ten. Just too many—and all of them good—are coming this year alone. We settled on these ten, a few of them already out in March, but most of them yet to be birthed into this world. We have authors from Kenya, Uganda, even a translation from Cameroon. We hope that you follow the release of these books and read them, let them into your world, when they are out. We hope you enjoy them.
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell
Another Caine Prize winner (for the incredible short story The Sack), Namwali Serpell is a massive talent. It is evidenced in her short stories, and it is again proven in this novel that extends from colonial Zambia to the distant future.
Salman Rushdie, in a review on the New York Times, heaped the writer, and the book, with praises, describing it as “a dazzling debut establishing Namwali Serpell as a writer on the world stage.”
The Old Drift is divided into three parts which contain three sections each, and it was published in March.
You can buy The Old Drift on Amazon.
Bird Summons by Leila Aboulela
Bird Summons, out in the UK in March, weaves a bit of magic and folklore to confront faith and femininity.
Sudanese writer Leila Aboulela, who won the inaugural Caine Prize, has been nominated for the Women’s Prize for her three previous novels, and that should be an indication that Bird Summons, which brings a unique take on the “road trip novel,” will be a force.
You can buy Bird Summons on Amazon.
The Dragonfly Sea by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
Another Caine Prize winner, Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s second novel arrived in March. The coming-of-age story takes us back to 1992 when little Ayaana finds in a father in a sailor. Years later, though, Ayaana discovers her roots to lie in China, where to she sets sail to be united with distant relatives.
The Dragonfly Sea has only gotten praise after praise, with Publishers Weekly describing it as a “sprawling, beautiful novel,” and Kirkus Reviews saying: “magisterial . . . Sweeping . . . Gorgeous . . . Heart-rendingly lyrical.” We can’t wait to get our hands on it.
You can buy The Dragonfly Sea on Amazon.
Prince of Monkeys by Nnamdi Ehirim
In December 2017, publisher Catapult asked on Twitter what their followers were looking forward to in the year 2018. As banter, Nnamdi Ehirim who tweets through @MinoEhirim, quoted the tweet: Publishing a Catapult Book?
In his words, he decided to submit his manuscript because he “really had nothing to lose.” That manuscript was accepted, and that manuscript will be published as Prince of Monkeys this April.
Publishers Weekly has described Prince of Monkeys, set in Lagos between 1985 to 1998, and centered around the lives of four friends, as “a vivid, astute portrait of Nigeria—and its people—in the throes of upheaval.” We can’t wait to have it in our hands, and its beautiful cover definitely gives it extra points.
You can buy Prince of Monkeys on Amazon.
Let’s Tell This Story Properly by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Have you read Ugandan writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize-winning story Let’s Tell This Story Properly? Open it in a new tab now so you won’t forget. The story will be one of many collected in her forthcoming collection Let’s Tell This Story Properly (Manchester Happened in the UK).
Her second book (after the magnificent novel Kintu), out May, will contain short stories that examine the lives of Ugandans who chose to make England their home. Makumbi’s writing is fun and brilliant, and this collection also promises to be.
You can preorder Let’s Tell This Story Properly on Amazon.
David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
If you’re interested in reading about modern day gods and wizards and half gods slugging it out on the streets of Lagos, then David Mogo, Godhunter is definitely for you.
David Mogo is a demigod in this book that dips into Yoruba mythology. As the book title implies, he hunts gods for a living. Problem is, a wizard might be carrying out plans to use one of David Mogo’s captives as a tool to win Lagos for himself.
David Mogo, Godhunter is out in July, and it’s no doubt one to watch out for.
You can preorder David Mogo, Godhunter on Amazon.
I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi
Here’s why Bassey Ikpi’s debut is important: Mental health remains a seldom discussed issue in Nigeria. Suicides on Lagos bridges are sometimes reported in the news, and the reactions show you that very little is known about what goes on in the human mind, how it works.
Bassey Ikpi has written a collection of essays based on her own life, taking us through the decline of her mental health, a hospitalization, and the diagnosis of her Bipolar II.
Harper Collins says of the collection: “Bassey Ikpi breaks open our understanding of mental health by giving us intimate access to her own.” We can’t wait until August comes for it to be released.
You can preorder I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying on Amazon.
When the Plums Are Ripe by Patrice Nganang
When the Plums Are Ripe, translated from the French by Amy B. Reid, takes us back to World War II and how Cameroon was forced into the war.
The story follows the poet Pouka who Cameroon’s highly anticipated plum season reminds of the “time when our country had discovered the root not so much of its own violence as that of the world’s own.”
When the Plums are Ripe, out in August, will give us an insight into the lives of francophone Africa, and the lasting effects of colonialism.
You can preorder When the Plums Are Ripe on Amazon.
A Particular Kind of Black Man by Tope Folarin
Tope Folarin won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing for his poignant story Miracle about a young boy and a pastor in an evangelical church in Utah. Miracle was said to have been excerpted from his novel, then unnamed, as well as another, New Mom, included in the Africa 39: New Writing From South of the Sahara collection, and Genesis, which was again shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2016.
The novel, A Particular Kind of Black Man, will finally arrive in August, and if his short stories are any indication, the novel will be moving and stirring. He said about it:
I’ve waited a long time to say this: I have finished my novel. It’s called A Particular Kind of Black Man, and it will be out next summer from Simon & Schuster. I’ve never worked harder on anything in my life, and I’m so very proud of it.
You can preorder A Particular Kind of Black Man on Amazon.
On Ajayi Crowther Street by Elnathan John and Alaba Onajin
Out in November, this graphic novel by satirist and novelist Elnathan John and graphic novel artist Alaba Onajin takes a look at the hypocrisy of Nigerians through the lives of Reverend Akpoborie and his family.
There’s the reverend’s daughter who must hide her pregnancy by her pastor boyfriend. There’s his son must hide his sexuality. And there’s the reverend himself who won’t take his eyes off their young maid.
Elnathan John will be doing what he knows to do best: poking fun at Nigerian lives while revealing the truth we continue to cloak with lies.
You can preorder On Ajayi Crowther Street on Cassava Republic.
BNers, what books from African authors are you looking forward to? Be our plug!